ASU students spread the word about helping disaster relief

April 30, 2015

Devastation from the recent earthquake in Nepal has brought the need for more efficient global disaster relief to the forefront. But what is the best way to help?

Graphic design students in Arizona State University’s visual communication studio IV course want to spread the message: Despite what some may think, cash donations are actually best. Symbols of Relief, Dillon Johnson Download Full Image

They designed public service announcements, and four of those students were among six total student finalists from across the country in the 2015 Public Service Announcements for International Disasters (PSAid) contest. The annual competition is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development Center for International Disaster Information (USAID CIDI), which educates the public about the best ways to help survivors of disaster events.

Those ASU students are:

• Katherine McNamara, first place, broadcast, “Donation Machine” (see video at end of story)

• Victoria Howell, third place, broadcast, “Myth vs. Fact” (see video at end of story)

• Dillon Johnson, first place, print, “Symbols of Relief”

• Stephanie McNicol, third place, print, “Make the Biggest Impact”

As is evidenced by its name, “Myth vs. Fact,” Howell wanted her video to dispel certain myths about disaster-relief donations.

“Something like a pack of water bottles that costs very little when purchased can end up costing a couple hundred dollars once it is sent, transported, received and distributed,” all activities that cost money, she said.

McNicol enjoyed participating in the competition not just for the opportunity to inform the public about disaster relief, but because “it's a great experience for [us] students … we treat this like a client project. We get to Skype with the people involved in the PSAid competition and ask questions.” 

The course is co-taught by Lisa Peña, instructor in the Design School, part of ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; John Mahon, faculty associate in the Design School; and Jarred Elrod, a graphic designer with ASU Wellness.

"My colleagues and I are extremely proud of our students," said Peña. "In the past, we have consistently won in the print and/or video categories for PSAid. However, this year, due to the recent events in Nepal, our students have gained a better understanding of how their work can affect communities near and far."

In its 10th year, PSAid has generated hundreds of broadcast and print public-service announcements about practicing “Smart Compassion” in support of international disaster relief. A core tenet of Smart Compassion is that monetary donations to relief organizations do more good for disaster survivors with greater speed and sensitivity than do unsolicited material donations.

“For the past decade, the PSAid competition has increased awareness among Americans that monetary donations to relief organizations provide the greatest help to survivors,” said Juanita M. Rilling, director of USAID CIDI. “The winners of this year’s competition have done a masterful job of illustrating that ‘Cash is Best.’”

The winning PSAs will be distributed through broadcast and cable outlets nationwide. All entries from this year and from prior years may be viewed on the PSAid competition website.

Want to know how specifically to help in Nepal? Visit the USAID CIDI website.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU News

(480) 965-9657

ASU hosting 1st sustainability conference for legal educators

May 1, 2015

Sustainability itself must be sustainable.

To do that requires finding a balance between environmental and economic needs, and the law plays a key part in that. inaugural Sustainability Conference of American Legal Educators Download Full Image

Arizona State University’s inaugural Sustainability Conference of American Legal Educators on May 8 will explore such topics as:

• preserving water resources without harming local economies

• encouraging rooftop solar energy without threatening electric utilities

• promoting urban agriculture in struggling cities

More than 60 law professors from around the country will convene at the conference for panels on issues at the intersection of sustainability and law, including climate-change policy, natural-resources law, agricultural and food regulation, and disaster law.

By assembling together many of the nation’s preeminent legal scholars in these fields, the conference – hosted by the Program on Law and Sustainability at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law – seeks to spur new research ideas and collaborations.

“Sustainability-related policy innovation is occurring at a rapid pace throughout the country, but there are limited opportunities for legal scholars researching in this area to come together and share ideas,” said Troy Rule, Program on Law and Sustainability faculty director. “This conference will help to fill this gap.”

The conference’s keynote speaker will be Daniel Esty, the Hillhouse professor of environmental law and policy and director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy at Yale Law School.

The event at Armstrong Hall on ASU's Tempe campus is open to the public, and registration is free for attendees not seeking continuing legal education credit.

ASU’s Program on Law and Sustainability is a comprehensive program designed to train students to address sustainability-related issues in their legal careers and to help drive sustainability-related policy innovation. The program’s partnerships with the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and School of Sustainability also give students access to ASU’s vast, world-class network of sustainability education resources.

For more information on the upcoming conference, visit

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law